There's Google Messenger, there's old Gchat, there's Hangouts, there's all of Hangouts' specialized video chat services, but today at its I/O developer conference, Google announced two new apps: Allo for messaging and Duo for video. Huh.
Both incorporate tech like photo vision and machine learning to make it easier to get information and services from Google without ever having to leave the apps. Both are connected to your phone number so you can use them more like Apple's iMessage and Facetime. Allo offers pre-written predictive responses to messages you recieve and lets you use Google's AI assistant to do things like browse restaurants and book a dinner reservation from within a chat. You can also chat with the assistant directly to find out whether your flight is delayed and what the weather is where you're going.
Duo offers HD video calling but can also adjust to a lower quality if you try to use it on a slow connection. It switches between mobile data and Wi-Fi when possible, and generally seems designed to work in varied conditions—not just places with top connectivity infrastructure.
Both apps will be available on Android and iOS this summer.
Duo offers end-to-end encryption on all calls, and Allo has an Incognito mode (similar to turning your Hangouts history with someone off or going "off the record") that is also fully end-to-end encrypted and has a seperate type of notifications. The FBI may not be happy about it, but these security measures are becoming more standard for communication apps.
Google seems to be debuting Allo and Duo as alternatives to their main offerings, similar to how their Inbox service for Gmail has been hanging out for a couple of years alongside main Gmail. For something like chat, though, where it's more convenient when everyone you know is on the same platform, it's unclear why Google would choose to fragment its users instead of just updating Hangouts with a bunch of new features.